2017 NFL RUNNING BACKS - Rookies and Redshirts


ROUND 1:

Pick 4, 4th overall (Jacksonville Jaguars): Leonard Fournette, RB, Louisiana State University
RUSHING: 616 attempts, 3830 yards, 6.2 yards per carry (ypc), 40TD
RECEIVING: 41 receptions, 526 yards, 12.8 yards per reception, 1TD
There aren't a lot of guys out there who are 6'0", 240lbs and can run a 4.51 40 yard dash.  Fournette is the goal line, third down, power back in every virtue.  Built to bash, he looks for contact when he runs, and runs over defenders when he makes contact.  His tenacious running style has drawn comparisons to future Hall of Famer Adrian Peterson.  He would've padded his stats even more, but his 2016 campaign was limited by an injury to just 7 games.  This is where things can start going wrong.  Instead of looking for open lanes or cutting it back and running to daylight, he bowls over everyone like he has something to prove.  This aggressive running style and lack of vision could lead to injuries earlier than expected and a shortened career.  In addition, the Jaguars' offensive line hasn't been known to open up lanes or blow defenders off the line.  If Fournette continues to run straight into the pile, he'll struggle like Yeldon and Ivory have.  Grab Fournette in 12-man leagues as a speculative pick.  Even though he's buried on the depth chart behind Ivory and Yeldon, Fournette could get his shot earlier than expected if Ivory or Yeldon get hurt, or if they both continue to struggle.
**UPDATE: Fournette is dealing with a foot injury as of August 13.  However, T.J. Yeldon also left the 2nd preseason game with a hamstring injury.  The Jags' entire backfield situation will be something to monitor moving forward.

Pick 8, 8th overall (Carolina Panthers): Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford University
37 games played
RUSHING: 632 attempts, 3922 yards, 6.2 yards per carry (ypc), 21TD
RECEIVING: 99 receptions, 1206 yards, 12.2 yards per reception, 10TD
McCaffrey is a homerun threat every time he touches the ball.  He runs with power and tenacity, and is a stellar receiver out of the backfield.  When the Panthers drafted him, they were undoubtedly looking for a playmaker to compliment the hard-charging Jonathan Stewart and take some pressure off  of Cam Newton.  McCaffrey's versaility means he can line up anywhere on the field, making him a threat any time he's on the field.  He could be behind Jonathan Stewart on the depth chart, but could work his way up fast, given the Panthers' lack of true offensive weapons beyond Benjamin, Olsen, Stewart, and Cam.  Moreover, the Panthers play the NFC North and AFC East this year, 2 of the defensively softer divisions in the league.  While this schedule isn't exactly cushy, there is fantasy potential.  Draft him as high as a flex in 12-team leagues, especially ppr.  Cam Newton's shoulder injury could mean the Panthers offense leans on short passes and the ground game even more, making McCaffery an even more valuable back.
ROUND 2:
Pick 9, 41 overall (Minnesota Vikings): Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State University
38 games played
RUSHING: 687 attempts, 4464 yards, 6.5 yards per carry (ypc), 46TD
RECEIVING: 79 receptions, 935 yards, 11.8 yards per reception, 2TD
While he may not look like it on paper, 5'10", 210lb Dalvin Cook is fast.  Really fast.  Eye-poppingly fast.  In most of his tapes, he catches the ball or bounces the run around the edge and turns on the jets upfield.  He has an uncanny ability to turn short gains into big chunks.  His quick feet make him elusive and he seems to shrug off defenders.  He must be gang-tackled and cannot be allowed to get into the open field.  Blink and he's gone.  Hopefully the Vikings can find ways to get him the ball despite a dismal offensive line.  Latavius Murray is the lead back at the moment, but is still on the mend following ankle surgery he had in March.  The Vikings are taking a cautious approach with their $15 million investment.  McKinnon is the backup, but Cook is the back of the future and he get his chance sooner rather than later.  He has a real chance to show up and fight for the starting job.  If he can catch the ball, turn upfield, and hang on to the rock (He had 13 drops as a Seminole) he'll be able to show why he scored a combined 48 touchdowns during his college career.  Continue to monitor the Vikings' backfield situation.  If Murray can't get on the field with the starting unit, Cook might be the starting back, making him worthy of flex consideration at the very least.  
Pick 16, 48 overall (Cincinnati Bengals): Joe Mixon, University of Oklahoma Sooners
25 games played
RUSHING: 300 attempts, 2027 yards, 6.8 yards per carry (ypc), 17TD
RECEIVING: 65 receptions, 894 yards, 13.8 yards per reception, 9TD
Mixon has all the makings of a monster running back.  He'll run, cut, hurdle, and stiff-arm his way to the house.  At 6'1", 226lbs, he has unusual athletic ability for a runner his size, in addition to the expected power.  He has great burst, a decent jump cut, and is elusive enough to make defenders miss.  Scouting expert Mike Mayock called him a "top 15" player.  It'll be interesting seeing how he fits into the Bengals' backfield which includes Jeremy Hill and Gio Bernard.  
Mayock also mentioned a video in which Mixon hit a female, saying "once that tape came out, he would've been off the board."  This tape, and potential perceived character flaw, may have caused a considerable drop im Mixon's Combine stock.  The Bengals certainly have a decision to make at runnimg back.  If Mixon get on the field with his moves and stay there by keeping whatever personal issues he has under control, he has a chance at being a real superstar.  Otherwise, Mixon can remain undrafted in your fantasy league until he gets his shot.  
ROUND 3:
Pick 3, 67 overall (New Orleans Saints): Alvin Kamara, RB, University of Tennessee
24 games played
RUSHING: 210 attempts, 1295 yards, 6.2 yards per carry (ypc), 16TD
RECEIVING: 74 receptions, 683 yards, 9.2 yards per reception, 7TD
Kamara is one of the most underrated players in this year's draft.  At 5'10", 214lbs, this stocky back has all of the right traits to be an NFL superstar.  Although he doesn't have the gaudy numbers that Fournette and Cook have, he has all the moves.  This dual threat will catch it out of the backfield or round the edge and hit the gas.  He'll be up the field and in the endzone before you know it.  He joins a crowded Saints but defective backfield with Ingram and Peterson.  His skillset is a good fit but he may lack the physicality to run in a division with underrated defenses.  He avoids contact but vision is just average.  At the moment, Kamara is a deep league ppr flier, but could hold surprising value and upside even if he needs to spell Ingram and Peterson.
Pick 22, 86 overall (Kansas City Chiefs): Kareem Hunt, RB, University of Toledo
44 games played
RUSHING: 782 attempts, 4945 yards, 6.3 yards per carry (ypc), 44TD
RECEIVING: 73 receptions, 555 yards, 7.6 yards per reception, 1TD
At 6'1", 225lbs, Hunt dominated the lesser-known Mid-America Conference (MAC) he played in, amassing over 5500 offensive yards and 45 touchdowns.  He has the patience to follow blockers, let running lanes develop, and hit the hole hard when those lanes finally do develop.  He also uses jump cuts to make defenders miss and has great agility especially for a guy his size.  As good as he is, his production remains questionable because he didn't play in a "major" conference.  Hunt should still find success with the Chiefs since his skillset is a great fit for Reid's offensive system.  He could struggle to get carries though, as he could end up behind starting back Spencer Ware, and backups West and Spiller.  

**UPDATE: With Spencer Ware potentially out for the season with serious knee injuries, head coach Andy Reid has indicated that Hunt will step in as the starter for the immediate future.  This gives him the most fantasy potential of any rookie.  Hunt should be drafted as high as an RB2 in deep leagues. 
Pick 25, 89 overall (Houston Texans): D'Onta Foreman, RB, University of Texas 
27 games played
RUSHING: 431 attempts, 2774 yards, 6.4 yards per carry (ypc), 20TD
RECEIVING: 13 receptions, 146 yards, 11.2 yards per reception, 0TD
At 6'1", 233lbs, Foreman is easily a far more dynamic back than Blue will ever be, and should easily beat out Blue for the backup job in Houston.  Miller appeared in 14 games last year, tallying nearly 1100 yards and 5 touchdowns, but struggled with injuries at times.  This means Foreman could see opportunities sooner.  In Foreman's 2016 season, he ran the ball 393 times for an eye-popping 2028 yards and 15 touchdowns, and caught another 13 passes for 146 yards.  He brings a powerful running style to the Texans backfield.  He keeps his feet moving while running in traffic, and gets up to top speed quickly, outrunning any pursuers.  When defenders finally catch up, he must be gang-tackled.  Any attempt at swiping the ball out of his 10 1/8 inch hands are usually shrugged off.  He's athletic and explosive for a guy his size.  He's always a passing option out of the backfield and should give Brandon Weeden or fellow rookie Deshaun Watson a good security blanket when Lamar Miller goes down.  At the very least, this heavy hitter could see goal line worl early in the season.  
Pick 41, 105 overall (Pittsburgh Steelers): James Conner, RB, University of Pittsburgh
39 games played 
RUSHING: 668 attempts, 3733 yards, 5.6 yards per carry (ypc), 52TD
RECEIVING: 30 receptions, 412 yards, 13.7 yards per reception, 4TD
While he's not exactly the hometown kid, growing up in northern Pennsylvania had acclimated James Conner to play both as a Pitt Panther and a Pittsburgh Steeler.  At 6'1", 233lbs, this big bruiser bashed his way to 21 touchdowns nearly 1100 yards on the ground, and caught the ball another 21 times for 302 yards and 4 scores during his senior year.  During his 4 years as a Panther, he compiled over 4100 yards of offense and 56 touchdowns.  Those numbers would've been bigger if he wasn't diagnosed with Hogkins Lymphoma, which caused him to miss basically his entire senior year.  While his senior year rebound illustrates his mental toughness, he will always come with health concerns attached.  If Conner can stay on the field, he'll be a productive weapon.  However, he could remain buried at the bottom of the roster in a jumbled Steelers backfield.  
ROUND 4:
Pick 7, 114 overall (Washington Redskins): Samaje Perine, RB, University of Oklahoma
36 games played
RUSHING: 685 attempts, 4122 yards, 6.0 yards per carry (ypc), 49TD
RECEIVING: 40 receptions, 321 yards, 8.0 yards per reception, 2TD
At 5'11", 233lbs, this stocky back is built like former Falcon and NFL great, Michael "The Burner" Turner.  Perine a one trick pony, but that's all he needs when he does that one thing so well.  He ran all over the Kansas Jayhawks to become the current NCAA record holder for most rushing yards (427) and touchdowns (5) in a single game.  While he's not the fastest or most agile guy on the field, his well-built lower body makes him tough to bring down and his massive 10 inch mitts make it tough to punch the ball out.  While Robert Kelley is the undisputed starter in Washington's backfield, Perine should see opportunities as a touchdown vulture at the very least.  With Chris Thompson locked in as the change of pace back and receiving option, he'll fight to unseat Matt Jones as the Redskins' primary backup.  If Kelley or Thompson get hurt, Perine could be the surprise of the 2017 NFL season.  Deep league flier only.
Pick 13, 119 overall (Chicago Bears): Tarik Cohen, RB, North Carolina A & T
46 games played 
RUSHING: 868 attempts, 5619 yards, 6.5 yards per carry (ypc), 56TD
RECEIVING: 98 receptions, 945 yards, 9.6 yards per reception, 3TD
Tarik Cohen aka "The Human Joystick" is appropriately named for his ability to stop, start, jump, cut, and evade on a dime.  He doesn't need to run through defenders because he makes them all miss.  At 5'6", and 179lbs, this explosive playmaker has already drawn comparisons to Darren Soproles.  When he was taken by former Saints and current Bears GM Ryan Pace, it was pretty clear that Cohen would take on the similar role with the Bears that Sproles took on with the Saints.  The running back position should be relied on heavily to provide struggling veteran QB Glennon or Rookie QB Trubisky safety valves and offensive outlets.  This means that Cohen could spell starter Jordan Howard if Langford continues to struggle or get hurt.  Cohen has the ability to line up anywhere on the field and be a threat, especially if he's given room to work.  His massive 10 1/8 inch mitts give him exceptional ability to catch and hang on to the ball.  He'll be a great flier especially in ppr leagues.  
Pick 15, 121 overall (San Francisco 49ers): Joe Williams, RB, University of Utah Utes
19 games played
RUSHING: 314 attempts, 1884 yards, 6.0 yards per carry (ypc), 13TD
RECEIVING: 21 receptions, 191 yards, 9.6 yards per reception, 0TD

To put it politely, Joe Williams is a work in progress.  He's shown pure, raw talent as a runner, displaying some breakaway speed if he can get to the second level.  He makes decent cuts and gets to another gear after making someone miss.  However, character issues abound.  His love of the game has been called into question, especially after his 4 game "retirement" during his senior year.  If he can push himself and work on his game, the backup spot behind Carlos Hyde is wide open.  Keep an eye on the news coming out of training camp.  He'll play in a defensively tough NFC West division on a team sith a leaky offensive line, and will be a deep league flier only, if anything. 

Pick 26, 132 overall (Philadelphia Eagles): Donnel Pumphrey, RB, San Diego State University
54 games played
RUSHING: 1059 attempts, 6405 yards, 6.0 yards per carry (ypc), 62TD
RECEIVING: 99 receptions, 1039 yards, 10.5 yards per reception, 5TD
At 5'8" and 176lb, Pumphrey is similar in stature to 5'6", 179lb Tarik Cohen.  The big difference is Cohen has massive 10 1/8" mitts, whereas Pumphrey has more average 8 1/2" hands.  Pumphrey does play bigger than his size, occasionally lowering his shoulder to initiate contact with defenders and gain ground.  While he's not the most agile back in the draft his moves are good enough to shake defenders.  He's also a proven dual threat who caught nearly 100 receptions for over 1,000 yards during his career as an Aztec.  With Sproles entering his 13th season in the league, Pumphrey is in a position to learn from one of the best role players in the game.  He'll join Philly's crowded backfield with Mathews, Smallwood, Barner, and Sproles.  Sproles had more offensive yards and just one less touchdown than starter Ryan Mathews after the starting job became a timeshare.  At this point, Pumphrey can be left on the wire unless a slew of injuries happens to the Eagles' backfield.  His potential is there, but he may not have the chance to show it.
**UPDATE: Eagles release Ryan Mathews.  Everyone moves up in the depth charts.

Pick 28, 134 overall (Green Bay Packers): Jamaal Williams, RB, BYU
43 games played
RUSHING: 726 attempts, 3901 yards, 5.4 yards per carry (ypc), 35TD
RECEIVING: 50 receptions, 567 yards, 9.5 yards per reception, 1TD
As one of the other guys to rush for five (yes 5) rushing touchdowns in a single game, Jamaal Williams deserves at least some recognition.  At 6'0", 212lbs he has room to grow.  If he gets on Ty Montgomery's weight gain plan from 2016, Williams can pack on the muscle, fast.  As he stands, he has quick feet and decent athleticism for a guy his size.  He'll lower his shoulder to make contact and fight for extra yards when he needs to, and makes that last push to gain a few more inches.  Unfortunately, he may lack the explosiveness to make guys miss at the NFL level.  He makes up for that by being a dual threat who will find space, then sit and wait for the pass.  He's a proven receiver and should fit well with Aaron Rogers' schoolyard style of play.  Since Ty Montgomery is the only veteran running back at the time of this writing, Williams could get his shot sooner than later.  All of the other running backs are rookies just like Williams, and the back up spot behind Montgomery is wide open.  Given time or opportunity, Williams has the potential to turn into an NFL star.
Pick 34, 140 overall (New York Giants): Wayne Gallman, RB, Clemson
42 games played
RUSHING: 675 attempts, 3416 yards, 5.1 yards per carry (ypc), 34TD
RECEIVING: 66 receptions, 486 yards, 7.4 yards per reception, 2TD
Even though he was Clemson's starter, Gallman spent most of his time playing in the shadows of Deshaun Watson and Mike Williams.  He's a banger who can run between the tackles, fights for extra yards, and has a great spin move to make defenders miss.  At 6'0", 215lbs though, he has room to grow, and that basically sums up Gallman as a player.  Underdeveloped with limited opportunities as a Tiger, his patience, vision, and pass protection all need work.  With that said, he probably won't see the field unless Shane Vereen or Paul Perkins go down.  Even so, he'll likely fight Shaun Draughn and a slew of other backs for opportunities to run the ball for Big Blue.  He's a project that can be left on most wires.
Pick 37, 143 overall (Indianapolis Colts): Marlon Mack, South Florida
36 games played
RUSHING: 586 attempts, 3609 yards, 6.2 yards per carry (ypc), 32TD
RECEIVING: 65 receptions, 498 yards, 7.1 yards per reception, 1TD
With veteran Frank Gore entering his 13th season, the Colts wanted to shore up their backfield.  Enter Marlon Mack.  At 5'11, 213lbs, he has good size and smooth moves.  Runs balanced with loose hips that can make defenders miss.  He also has breakaway speed and is basically gone once he gets to the second level.  The hard part is getting there.  He sometimes looks indecisive if a lane doesn't open up, and likes to run sideways until a lane does open up.  He needs space to work, but turn the corner and turn on the burners if he's given space.  He also needs to run with more conviction between the tackles.  Mack is a low-contact runner who will find it tough to run through the likes of Watt, Cushing, Clowney, Khalil Mack, Orakpo, and other talented defenders on a tough (for a rookie) schedule.  He'll likely spell Robert Turbin in the third RB spot on the roster.  Gore has been an ageless wonder to this point, but time could show its effects this season.  Grab Mack as a desperate flier in the deepest leagues only.
ROUND 5:
Pick 12, 156 overall (Atlanta Falcons): Brian Hill, Wyoming
37 games played
RUSHING: 775 attempts, 4287 yards, 5.5 yards per carry (ypc), 32TD
RECEIVING: 41 receptions, 403 yards, 9.8 yards per reception, 0TD
The Falcons have done a great job of evaluating talent at the running back position recently.  Hill is the latest member to join an already loaded backfield that has the 2-headed monster of Freeman and Coleman.  At 6'1" 219 lbs, Hill is similar in size to Coleman.  Drafted in the 5th round, Hill could be one of the most undervalued players in this year's draft.  He can push the pile, work with small creases, and/or make effective cuts when needed.  When he does make contact, he keeps his feet moving to gain extra yards and can be tough to bring down.  While he's merely an insurance policy at the moment, he'll be running behind the talented Falcons front if Coleman or Freeman get hurt.  
Pick 18, 162 overall (Tampa Bay Buccaneers): Jeremy McNichols, Boise St.
34 games played
RUSHING: 571 attempts, 3205 yards, 5.6 yards per carry (ypc), 44TD
RECEIVING: 103 receptions, 1089 yards, 10.6 yards per reception, 11TD
At 5'9", 214lbs, McNichols aka "The Weapon," is similar in size to current Buccaneer and fellow Boise State Bronco alum Doug Martin.  Their playing styles are pretty similar as well, which means McNichols should fit into Tampa Bay's offensive scheme as long as he can pick up the playbook.  McNichols is a slasher who hits the hole hard, and runs bigger than his size.  He's small, elusive, and tough to bring down as well.  With Doug Martin and Charles Sims looking like they have durability issues, and Jacquizz Rodgers looking inconsistent at best, McNichols' chances could come sooner rather than later.  He'll be a deep league flier and definitely a player worth keeping an eye on in 2017.

Pick 36, 179 overall (Arizona Cardinals): T.J. Logan, North Carolina
49 games played
RUSHING: 398 attempts, 2165 yards, 5.4 yards per carry (ypc), 19TD 
RECEIVING: 76 receptions, 663 yards, 8.7 yards per reception, 4TD
Don't blink.  If you do, you'll miss Logan, especially if you're on defense.  At 5'9", 196lbs, the Arizona Cardinals are hoping Logan will become what Andre Ellington has only shown flashes of: a blazing, change-of-pace back to compliment David Johnson's  tough, hard-nosed running style.  Logan ran the fastest 40 at the 2017 NFL Combine at 4.37 seconds.  He uses his blistering speed to break contain just about every time.  If he rounds the corner, gets to the edge, or even has the slightest crease, he's gone.  He gets to his top speed quickly and leaves defenders behind if he gets even a little bit of open room.  The issue here is whether that speed will transfer to the pro level, where guys are quicker and have been playing the game longer.  His relatively skinny legs won't be able to push the pile, and he doesn't do too well with contact.  He does have room to grow, so he'll be a difference maker if he can get in the weight room and pack on a few more pounds especially in his lower body.  He's also shown receiving ability, frequently being a safety outlet for the Tarheels' offense, and has done well in the role.  He'll fight for the backup spot behind David Johnson, and will look to be an impact player should anything happen to the Cards' starter.  He could also be deployed as a receiver or as a receiving option out of the backfield.  Logan will be a player to keep an eye on as the season progresses.  Lest we forget, Tyreek Hill and Taylor Gabriel both reminded us that speed kills.  

Pick 39, 182 overall (Green Bay Packers): Aaron Jones, University of Texas, El-Paso (UTEP)
35 games played
RUSHING: 658 attempts, 4114 yards, 6.3 yards per carry (ypc), 33TD 
RECEIVING: 71 receptions, 646 yards, 9.1 yards per reception, 7TD
Jones is an option-type back who's a proven dual-threat.  At 5'9", 206lbs, he's stocky enough to get under the pad levels of tacklers which makes him tough to bring down.  Average runner whose favorite move is the stiff-arm, he fights for extra yards and cannot be arm-tackled.  He'll fight fellow rookie Jamaal Williams to fight for the backup spot behind Ty Montgomery, but all 3 of them could be deployed in the Packers' inverted wishbone formation.  Jones' option-type playing style should fit into the Packers' on-the-fly, schoolyard approach to football that QB Aaron Rogers loves so much.  Unfortunately, his injury history and small size have contributed to him dropping in the draft.  As long as starter Montgomery is healthy, Jones won't see much action.  Leave him on the wire for now.

ROUND 6:
Pick 4, 188 overall (New York Jets): Elijah McGuire, University of Louisiana-Lafayette
51 games played
RUSHING: 710 attempts, 4301 yards, 6.1 yards per carry (ypc), 42TD 
RECEIVING: 130 receptions, 1394 yards, 10.7 yards per reception, 10TD
Never mind that McGuire is from a relatively small school in a small conference.  This kid can play.  At 5'10, 214lbs, this stocky running back a 36-inch vertical and is unusually athletic for a guy his size.  While he may lack the eye-popping agility of other backs, he  knows how to follow blocks, works with creases, and shows great burst through small lanes.  He's also proven himself as a receiving threat.  On multiple occasions, he's lined up outside to run the go route, and has shown decent ball skills on par with most receivers.  This playmaking ability could come in handy especially on a New York Jets offense that's been depleted of playmakers.  With the quarterback question still unanswered for Gang Green, McGuire will be an intriguing deep league flier as an offensive jack-of-all-trades.  He'll need to find room to run behind one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL, against some of the toughest defenses in the NFL.  However, with Matt Forte almost on his last leg, and Bilal Powell looking tentative, McGuire may see the field sooner rather than later.  
REDSHIRTS:

TEVIN COLEMAN, Atlanta Falcons
Coleman is a must-draft this season, especially in ppr leagues. Devonta Freeman is in concussion protocol from the preseason, and there's no telling when he'll be back to full strength.  Coleman ran the ball 118 times for 520 yards and 8 touchdowns, and caught 31 passes for another 421 yards and an additional 3 scores.  With just 3 weeks until the start of the season, the Falcons' backfield situation is something to monitor.  Coleman is still a great fantasy player whether he starts for the Falcons or not.  If Freeman is out, Coleman is the man.
C.J. PROSISE, Seattle Seahawks
Eddie Lacy and Thomas Rawls played a combined 14 games (Lacy 5, Rawls 9).  That's not even a full NFL season.  If their 2016 seasons were omens for their 2017 seasons, grab C.J. Prosise.  At 6'1", 225lbs, this dual-threat speedster is ahead of Alex Collins on the depth chart and could prove valuable as the season wears on, especially in ppr leagues.  Keep an eye on Seattle's backfield situation.  If either go down, Prosise should step in, and you should scoop him up.
DERRICK HENRY, Tennessee Titans
Hamstring injuries/issues aren't something easy to bounce back from.  Derrick Henry would step in as starter DeMarco Murray recovers and rehabs his hamstring.  If Murray goes down again during the season, Henry would be a massive pickup.  At 6'3", 247, the big bruiser fits right into Mike Mularkey's "exotic smashmouth" system.  

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